Curriculum Catalog

Where You From?: On Community and Observational Poetry

This workshop explores the manner in which community is the center of the African Diaspora and culture. What and who makes your community? How do you remember them? Through Where I’m From, the 1993 single from Brooklyn trio Digable Planets, students are asked to think about where they are from; the people, places and traditions that define their community. Responses will be written in the form of observational poetry. 

Da Art of Storytelling  (Part One): On Storytelling and Communal Writing:

Atlanta duo Outkast perfected “da art of storytelling” as a pair, moving seamlessly between the independent narratives of Andre “3000” Benjamin and Antwan “Big Boi” Patton. Students will learn about the artistic environment of Atlanta during the early 90s, and the artistic collective Dungeon Family. This workshop will encourage written response in groups, creating group poems where narratives are combined to make one cohesive story.

Parchman Farm Blues: On the Blues and the Prison Industrial Complex

The blues is the written and musical expression of sorrow.  Beginning in West Africa and travelling through the Transatlantic Slave Trade, blues grew in the belly of the deep south of the United States of America and spread to cities like Chicago and St. Louis. In this workshop, students are introduced to blues artist Bukka Washington and a brief history of the prison industrial complex. This workshop challenges young writers to recall and retell their personal grievances as it relates to political structures.

They Reminisce Over You: On Writing Elegy and the Tradition of Dirges

Hip Hop has popularized the image of “pouring one out for the homies” when paying homage to those who have passed. Through Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth’s 1992 single, They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.),  students will learn about the African tradition of venerating the dead and the manner in which they are commemorated in written and musical form. Young writers are encouraged to commemorate the memory of those who have passed.

Priority: On Writing Anaphora

Rapper Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def) uses anaphora in his 2009 record, Top Priority through the repetition of a segment of lyrics or words.  This style of writing is seen often in the call and response and chanting that is integral in the music and writing of the African Diaspora. Writers will be given the opportunity to write in anaphora.

Sing About Me: On Kendrick Lamar and Persona Poems

Kendrick Lamar often writes in persona, telling stories from the perspective of someone else, most notably in his 2012 record Sing About Me. Writers will discuss the storytelling and writing style of Lamar, who has mastered writing and speaking a story. They will be prompted to write in persona. 

Young, Gifted & Black: On the Youth and Liberation

A workshop that explores the liberation movements of the African Diaspora during the early 20th century. Most, if not all of these movements were led by the youth. This workshop will examine the importance of the young in changing oppressive systems. Writers will dialogue and write about the current climate of socio-political activism.

I Be African Man, Original: On Black Code Laws and Writing Vernacular

Fela Kuti’s 1973 album Gentlemen focused on the impact of colonization on Nigerian culture and society. His single, of the same name, expressed his rebellion to colonized standards. Writers will learn the history of Black code laws, which inhibited the free movement of the Diaspora, and will write poetry using the vernacular of their communities, that may or may not be viewed as anti-academic.

Sweet Prince of the Ghetto: On Radical Love

Identity is political, the way we love ourselves and one another is also political. This workshop poses the question: Can we find liberation in love? Using The Sweetest Thing, the 1997 single from The Refugees Allstar, writers are presented with a socio-politicized example of a love song. In turn, young writers will write love poems, making sure to not only focus on romantic love, but love of self and community.